Former National Football League wide receiver Josh Bellamy, a St. Petersburg native and resident, was among more than 50 people charged Thursday with attempting to defraud the government out of up to $175 million in COVID-19 relief money.
Bellamy was arrested Thursday on charges with wire fraud, bank fraud and conspiracy to commit both, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Department of Justice complaints unsealed Thursday outlined similar alleged similar schemes in 16 states and Washington D.C. In all, the investigations resulted in the arrests of more than 50 people who sought loans totaling $175 million. According to Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Rabbitt, they resulted in $70 million in losses to the federal government. Officials were able to recover or freeze $30 million in loan money.
“These are not simple or easy cases to investigate and charge,” Rabbit said in a statement. ”This makes it all the more remarkable that the department has been able to bring so many cases so quickly and is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our attorneys, agents, and partners across the U.S. government."
According to a complaint filed with the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida, Bellamy obtained a loan worth more than $1.24 million from the Paycheck Protection Program for a company called Drip Entertainment LLC. The loans, which were part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, were designed to help small businesses recover from the coronavirus pandemic by funding payrolls and and other qualified expenses such as rent and utilities.
Instead, the complaint alleges that Bellamy deposited the money into his personal bank account, which at the time had only $2.51. Between May and July, the complaint alleges Bellamy withdrew more than $302,000, spending $104,000 on luxury goods and jewelry and another $62,774 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
Bellamy also was involved in the preparation of at least 90 fraudulent applications for friends and family, the complaint says. Those loans were worth as much as $24 million; at least $17.4 million worth were approved. Ten other co-conspirators were charged in the alleged scheme.
Drip Entertainment was reinstated as an active company in Florida on Wednesday, according to state business records. It was first registered with the state in 2018. Bellamy is the only officer listed with the company in both its 2018 and most recent filings. The business' principal address is a home on 27th Street S in St. Petersburg.
According to the complaint, an undercover agent posing as a potential loan partner, asked Bellamy how many employees he had.
“I got as many employees as I want,” the complaint quotes Bellamy.
Bellamy played for Boca Ciega High School and the University of Louisville before signing with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2012. He has also played for San Diego, Washington and Chicago. He was released by the New York Jets on Tuesday.
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